• In Focus

    King’s Speech 2023: Constitution

    The government has not indicated it plans any constitutional reform bills in the new session. However, it has set out some changes it intends to make around business appointment rules, public appointments, transparency and lobbying. Over coming months, an independent review of civil service governance and accountability, an updated draft of the Cabinet manual and a government report on voter ID are all expected to be published. The government is reportedly in “listening mode” on House of Lords reform.

  • In Focus

    King’s Speech 2023: Devolved affairs

    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said “strengthening the Union and delivering for all people and communities across the UK” is a “priority” for the UK government. Mr Sunak said his government’s approach to devolution was to “drive forward cross-government efforts towards delivering tangible improvements”. This briefing discusses some of the key issues in devolved affairs that may be addressed in the forthcoming parliamentary session.

  • In Focus

    Sovereigns’ first state opening speeches

    For centuries it has been custom for the monarch to deliver a speech at the state opening of Parliament. It is formally known as the ‘speech from the throne’. King Charles III will deliver his first speech as sovereign on 7 November 2023. This briefing discusses how the custom developed and looks at some of the themes in previous first state opening speeches.

  • In Focus

    The restoration and renewal programme: Recent developments and next steps

    The restoration and renewal programme was created to preserve the Palace of Westminster. In 2022, the commissions of the House of Commons and House of Lords decided to change its governance structure. The progress made in implementing these changes and progressing the programme is outlined in its first annual report, published in July 2023. This article gives an overview of the history of the programme and provides a summary of its annual report. It also highlights plans for both Houses to debate a shortlist of delivery options before the end of 2023.

  • In Focus

    Fast-tracking legislation

    Fast-tracked bills are those which complete all their parliamentary stages in a shortened timescale. Reasons for using the process include correcting an error in legislation or responding to unforeseen circumstances. However, issues such as pressure on the procedural process and a lack of parliamentary scrutiny have been identified with fast-tracking. This article explores how and why bills are fast-tracked.

  • In Focus

    Roles of the lord chancellor and the law officers: Lords committee report

    In January 2023, the House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report on the roles of the lord chancellor and the law officers. It concluded the office holders must have the character, authority, intellect and independence to defend the rule of law. In response, the government said it had no plans to review the roles but would continue to reflect on the committee’s report. This article summarises the committee’s findings, as well as the government’s response.

  • Research Briefing

    Hereditary by-elections: Results

    Hereditary peer by-elections are held within the House of Lords to replace excepted hereditary peers who have retired or died. This Lords Library briefing provides a list of hereditary peers’ by-election results since the passing of the House of Lords Act 1999, including information on turn out and the number of candidates.

  • In Focus

    Parliamentary scrutiny of treaties

    When the UK withdrew from the EU it regained its ability to independently negotiate free trade agreements. The trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand were the first that the UK negotiated from scratch. The legislation implementing their procurement provisions in domestic UK law received royal assent on 23 March 2023 (the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Act 2023). This, and the negotiation of the agreements that underpinned the UK’s withdrawal, has highlighted the role of Parliament in scrutinising international treaties.

  • In Focus

    Parliamentary democracy in the UK

    A range of groups have expressed concern in recent years about the overall strength of the UK’s democracy or about particular elements of the UK’s constitutional arrangements. Concerns range from observations that the relationship between Parliament and the executive has become increasingly unbalanced, to views on changes to certain rights, freedoms and norms seen as essential features in a democratic society.

  • In Focus

    Liaison Committee: Citizenship and civic engagement

    During the 2017–19 session, the House of Lords appointed a committee to examine citizenship and civic engagement in the UK. In 2022, the House of Lords Liaison Committee held a follow-up to this inquiry, considering issues including citizenship education in schools, the ‘life in the UK’ test, and whether the government’s policies in this area are coordinated effectively. The House of Lords is scheduled to debate its report on 17 April 2023.

  • Research Briefing

    Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Organ and Tissue Donation) Bill: HL Bill 105 of 2022–23

    The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Organ and Tissue Donation) Bill would extend the deadline for forming a Northern Ireland executive to 18 January 2024. It would also allow the secretary of state to set an Assembly election date earlier than this if no executive had been formed. It would also allow regulations to be made about the rule for organ donation in Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning Assembly.

  • In Focus

    ‘Common frameworks: An unfulfilled opportunity?’: Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee report

    In its second report, the House of Lords Commons Frameworks Scrutiny Committee considered the progress made on the UK common frameworks programme. Common frameworks are non-binding agreements between the UK and devolved governments that set out ways of working on a range of policy areas. They are required for some devolved policy areas that have been affected by Brexit. The committee raised concerns that the programme was at risk of becoming a “missed opportunity”. It made a number of recommendations, the majority of which the government has accepted.

  • Research Briefing

    Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill: HL Bill 89 of 2022–23

    The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 6 February 2023. The bill would automatically revoke, or ‘sunset’, most retained EU law at the end of 2023. However it would also give ministers powers to exempt some retained EU law from the sunset and to restate, reproduce, replace or update retained EU law by statutory instrument.

  • In Focus

    Scrutiny of EU legislation within the scope of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland: Debate on committee report

    One of the tasks of the House of Lords Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Sub-Committee is to scrutinise EU legislative proposals that may affect Northern Ireland because of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The House of Lords is due to debate a report from the committee that summarises the first year of its work on this issue and the government’s commitment to facilitating this parliamentary scrutiny.

  • In Focus

    Building a stronger union: House of Lords Constitution Committee

    In January 2022, the House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report calling for the UK government to set out a “clearer vision” for the future of the UK’s union. Although it welcomed the government’s commitment to the union, it argued that a more modern style of governance was needed, and that it was “imperative” that all executives and legislatures worked “constructively and in partnership”. The government has welcomed the report and said it would consider several of its recommendations.